Has anyone ever told you, “Stop caring what other people think?” I wish it were that easy. Caring what people think is usually not a conscious choice.
I got a negative email from someone who was clearly having a bad day! With over 6000 subscribers, I know that not everyone is going to like what I say or how I say it. Years ago, I would have obsessed over it and analyzed every word. I would have allowed it ruin my day and wreck my mood.
But not anymore!
I am a recovered people pleaser, so I know the agony of living my life for approval. It was a huge roadblock to my growth and success.
It’s normal to be happy when we get a compliment or praise, but it’s not healthy when we worry so much about what people are thinking, saying or doing, that it affects our self-worth.
We are wired to enjoy the approval of others. As children, there were consequences when the people we loved disapproved of us.
When we did something wrong, we felt like we were bad. We felt our parents disapproved of us – not just the action. We decided that it really was about us. We took it personally.
We made it mean that we did not deserve love if we were not pleasing our parents and other people – -teachers, coaches, friends, etc. We made it mean that we were not good enough. If we were good enough, we wouldn’t have been spanked, yelled at, sent to time out, and grounded. Many of us had it even worse – verbal or physical abuse, insults and abandonment.
We carried these beliefs into adulthood and our self-confidence becomes dependent on other people’s approval.
Life is not a popularity contest. Some people will like you and some people won’t and some could care less.
Seeking approval is spending precious energy on what you cannot control – -other people’s thoughts and opinions. We know that we can’t please everyone, but we secretly try anyway.
When you base your worth on other people validating you, you are allowing other people to decide how you feel about yourself. You are giving your power away.
This is an enormous roadblock in our businesses and careers. We make stories up about what other people are thinking – – then worry about it.
We create their objections before even having a conversation. Sometimes the stories we create scare us so bad that we avoid the conversation altogether.
We don’t ask for a raise because we think we know what our boss is thinking. We don’t ask for that sale because we think the customer is thinking it’s too much money. We don’t speak up in meetings because we don’t want anyone to think poorly of us. We don’t ask for what we really want because we think they will say no or we think we don’t even deserve it.
Worrying about what others think stops us everywhere in life.
To stop this madness, you have to strengthen your self-esteem and build your confidence.
My self-esteem was horrible when I was young because of all the abuse and violence in my household. There was a time when I could not accept myself, trust myself or forgive myself. And the thought of loving myself was impossible.
The strategy that helped me the most was “seeing myself as God sees me”. My perspective was skewed because of my past, so I could not use positive self-talk or affirmations— I just didn’t believe it.
I believed in God though. So I focused on God’s love, forgiveness and acceptance. I knew he created me for a purpose and that gave me the power to be authentic and move forward even when I was full of fear and lacking confidence.
Knowing that I am whole and complete and created for a purpose, helped me to love myself and let go of my need for approval.
When you love yourself and accept yourself (as you are and as you are not), then the approval of others becomes less important.
Make a list of all the things you like (and love) about yourself — Your strengths, talents, skills, traits, values, etc. Make another list of all the things you are grateful for in your life. Read both lists daily. This will start your day in a space of gratitude and build self-love.
Another thing that I learned is how to sit in the discomfort of others’ disapproval.
When I receive negative feedback or criticism, I look to see if there are parts of it that I can use to gain self-awareness and develop in areas where I may be weak.
In other words, I let go of the parts that don’t fit and I learn from the parts that do. I do not make it mean that I am not good enough. I make it mean that I am still learning and growing. There is always room for improvement.
See your mistakes, failures and embarrassing moments as opportunities for growth and you will be untouchable.